I’m reluctantly considering taking the GRE again, after hearing the advice from one of my potential grad advisor. Given my verbal score is 450, quantitative score is 630 and the writing score is 4.5, it just means that I’m at the borderline of being accepted. However, is it an indicator of academic success? Must I spend a lot of money on this, again?
Christoph Klimmt, Albert Rizzo, Peter Vorderer and company had published a small (i.e. 4 pages of text) experimental study in Cyberpsychology and Behavior on the role of suspense in video game enjoyment.
Based on theoretical assumptions from film psychology and their application to video games, the hypothesis is tested that suspense is a major factor in video game enjoyment. A first-person shooter game was experimentally manipulated to create either a low level or a high level of suspense. Sixty-three participants were randomly assigned to experimental conditions; enjoyment was assessed after playing by a 10-item rating scale. Results support the assumption that suspense is a driver of video game enjoyment.
If more elements from film psychology are found in video games, then from the arts’ point of view, video games would be increasingly being considered works of art.
Suspense is defined, according to the affective disposition theory, as a narrative situation when an audience feels negatively valenced emotions (fear, anxiety to name a few) due to potentially dangerous, but uncertain, circumstances. The emotions from suspenseful situations would drive the audience’s desire on how the situation should resolve, either positively or negatively. To note, these emotions are not something bad, but appreciated in arousing intense emotions.
Suspense in film is created by the director, whereas suspense in video games is created by players’ uncertainty in successfully resolving a game task (i.e. a novel task, defeating an enemy, defeating a boss, accomplishing a goal within a time limit, keeping a set of characters alive, etc.), according to the lead author. Klimmt argues that players must act when confronted with a game task that has a direct relation to long-term goals (i.e. winning). If not, it would lead to undesirable consequences. Therefore, players would feel more strongly than a film audience in suspenseful situations due to players’ interactive involvement within a game environment. Interestingly, it is also argued that the repetition of the same game task is also suspenseful, since it depends on players’ performance, and it doesn’t occur at fixed time points.
A good example of a gaming episode with suspense is the stealth element in Metal Gear Solid series. Hiding from the
enemy, the player receives little information of being spotted by the enemy, thus creating a suspenseful episode. When the episode is resolve, either in good or bad, the results are immediately apparent.
Participants: 63 university students from a Los Angeles university, average age is 20.6 years (SD = 3.6). 43 females and 20 males. They participated for a 20$ compensation, the usual stuff.
Game enjoyment questionnaire: 10-item answered on a 5-point scale. Not sure I like this.
Television used: as an added feature, they decided to see if screen size might affect players’ game enjoyment, something related to spatial presence. One screen size is a 17-inch monitor and the other is a “140 cm projection screen with stereoscopic 3D imaging”.
Video game used: Unreal Tournament 2. They’ve created a map (a Middle-Eastern town) for their experimental use. They created two different versions of the same map. To facilitate the suspense conditions, players throughout the game received audio messages by in-game phone calls.
The low-suspense version is where the player is tasked to buy a vase as a tourist. In-game phone calls were made to appear that the game is that of a tourist walk.
The high-suspense version is where the player is tasked to obtain a vase that contains military intelligence as an undercover agent. In-game radio transmissions warned players of potential enemy attacks or having their cover blown.
Participants are randomly assigned to either play the low vs. high suspense condition and either the regular screen size vs. the huge screen size. Tutorial and instructions were given in-game. Play time is 15 minutes. After that, they completed the game enjoyment questionnaire.
Using ANOVA for their analysis. Players in the high suspense condition enjoyed the game significantly greater than those in the low-suspense condition. Screen size has no main effect and no interactions were found. Effect size between medium-large, although it’s a partial eta-squared. (That’s something for those in statistics).
There you have it, a study showing the first glitter that suspense has a role in video games enjoyment. Of course, more experimental studies on suspense are needed since the suspenseful video game does not resemble much to the real ones because there the high-suspense condition did not resolve in the other (i.e. the player being attacked). This study only examined participants’ perceptions of uncertainty and their expectations that bad things will come to them. Thus, the authors argued that examining more components of suspense, such as the emotional involvement within a game, will provide a more complete picture of how video game suspense fits in video game enjoyment.
A peculiar thing is their argument that a video game can be enjoyed for over a long period of time if the video game create suspense during that time period among other factors of game enjoyment.
My take is that they should improve their game enjoyment measure, a 10-item questionnaire doesn’t cut it out for me. Perhaps using some physiological measures, repeated-measures design (participants playing both conditions and ask which is more fun), different gaming genre (say RTS, RPG), comparison between passive viewing vs. active interaction with suspenseful events, and different kinds of events, such as horror scenes (thinking of Clive Barker’s Undying).
From a violence media effects perspective, if we make a content analysis of violent scenes and determine if they fit within the construct of suspense. If so, then it would mean another step in video game development and literature to create suspense without the violence and explore literary themes besides those already cover in war-themed games.
Klimmt, C., Rizzo, A., Vorderer, P., Koch, J., & Fischer, T. (2009). Experimental evidence for suspense as determinant of video game enjoyment. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 12 (1), 29-31.